The DA’s former head of policy Gwen Ngwenya believes the party does not take matters of policy seriously. 

This is disclosed in Ngwenya's four-page resignation letter, dated January 18, which was sent to DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

Her resignation from the post comes a month before the party’s manifesto launch at the end of February, where the party is expected to give voters its policy package for the 2019 national and provincial elections. 

Ngwenya, who is a former COO of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), did not even complete a year in the post. The DA’s former policy head, Gavin Davis, resigned from the post in 2017. 

Ngwenya states in her letter that there were many reasons for her resignation, which included a lack of political support for her work, as well as the fall-out around the party’s stance on broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE), a lack of budget to do her work, as well as no actual job description.  

Read the full resignation letter here 

“The bottom line is that I do not believe the DA takes policy seriously and, as a result, there has not been the operational or political resources necessary to result in a policy outcome I can be proud to be associated with,” Ngwenya said in her letter.

She said it was difficult to be clear of what she was resigning from as she never received a verbal or written job description.

“But I do feel a sense of loss. There are many good people, including yourself, fighting many fights every day, but ideas are not a battleground the DA likes to tread,” Ngwenya said.

She said she left a job she enjoyed immensely to move “from the night watch into what I thought was the front line of the battle of ideas”. 

“I was wrong about the nature of the battle I’d be engaged in. That, I will take responsibility for, and it will be a lesson to me about the consequences of acting in good faith alone. It is unfortunate to come to the realisation that I have never, in any meaningful way, been the head of policy; I was given all of the responsibility and none of the basic levers to do the job,” Ngwenya said.

She said her resignation meant that she was no longer available to be the face of policy.

“I will continue to offer my opinion (it being not in my nature to withhold it) and to carry out my duties as an MP,” Ngwenya said.

When asked for comment on her resignation, Ngwenya referred Business Day to the party.

Spokesperson Solly Malatsi said: “We thank Gwen for the work she has done on developing the party’s policy platform — this will now culminate in the launch our election manifesto.”

Sources have indicated to Business Day that there was disagreement between the party and her over her stance on BBBEE policy, which is closely linked to that of the IRR — that race should not be a factor. They indicated that DA leaders said the DA was “not a think tank” but a political party.

Ngwenya was appointed the party's head of policy at the beginning of 2018. The year was, however, a turbulent one for policy as the DA grappled with its empowerment policies. The party was sent into a spin after Ngwenya announced in August that it had ditched BBBEE from its economic policy.

This was initially disputed by DA federal council chair James Selfe, who said the DA still believed that race was a proxy for disadvantage in SA.

After a public debate in August, Ngwenya and Selfe issued a joint statement saying that the DA rejected the ANC’s BBBEE policy and would offer an alternative model of “real, broad-based empowerment”.